OPINION: The media must hold itself to a higher standard

Posted on Mar 27 2019 - 5:50am by Wright Ricketts

Wright Ricketts (taken 9/11/17). Photo by Marlee Crawford

This Sunday, special counsel Robert Mueller submitted a highly anticipated report detailing his 22-month-long investigation into Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The investigation explored allegations that the campaign conspired with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election and attempted to obstruct a related federal investigation.

After subpoenaing over 2,800 individuals, conducting nearly 500 search warrants, interviewing approximately 500 witnesses and spending over $30 million in taxpayer dollars, the special counsel concluded there was no evidence the Trump campaign colluded with any foreign adversary. The report stated, “The special counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

The long-awaited report is obviously great news for our country and for democracy. However, its conclusion stands in sharp contrast to what we’ve been led to expect from mainstream media outlets over the last 22 months. Virtually every day since the creation of the special counsel, Americans have been subjected to endless speculation and unfounded accusations regarding Donald Trump’s guilt and the possibility of impeachment despite the fact that not a shred of actual evidence ever came to light.

The disproportionate coverage of the story, along with hasty assumptions and reliance on guesswork, helped create the now disproven narrative that the campaign had in fact colluded with the Russian government. A study released by Newsbusters.org on Monday found that the “Big Three” broadcasting networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, “produced over 38 hours of Russia ‘collusion’ coverage — and 92 percent of it was negative in tone and content.” That’s a combined 2,284 minutes of coverage over 791 days, averaging three minutes every single night. To put the extent of the coverage in perspective, Rich Noyes, senior editor of Newsbusters.org, described the level of coverage as “normally associated only with a major war or a presidential election.” Newsbusters.org promotes a mission statement of “exposing and combating liberal media bias.” The study went on to say that “the networks’ fixation on scandal over substance is one reason their coverage of the president has been so preposterously lopsided.” Obviously journalists had an obligation to report on such an important issue, but the overwhelmingly biased coverage of it rendered it, at best, completely misleading, or, at worst, a deliberate political hit job.

This epic journalistic debacle leads to several questions: Why were so many journalists so positive of the Trump campaign’s guilt? Why was this story broadcasted on TV, social media and radio nonstop for nearly two years? Why were so many members of the media so intensely passionate about a legal situation in which they had literally no insight into?

There are two possibilities. Either most journalists are grossly incompetent at their jobs, or they intentionally try to advance political agendas through their reporting. Unfortunately, it’s most likely a mixture of both. It is clear the media has an enormous credibility problem — and rightfully so. Its coverage of anything evenly remotely related to President Trump and conservatism over the last two years has been astonishingly unfair and disingenuous — whether it was the Kavanaugh hearings, the Covington Catholic video or the Mueller investigation.

The media must begin to recognize its political bias and hold itself to a higher standard. A free and objective press is essential for holding our government accountable and ensuring transparency for the American people. Americans deserve to have confidence in the press and to trust that reporting and analysis will be fair, accurate and not politically motivated. Throughout the last two years, media has utterly failed in this regard. The press must do better for the sake of everyone who values truth, transparency and fairness.     

Wright Ricketts is a senior banking and finance and managerial finance double major from Memphis.